Kuraki Mai – ONE LIFE [7th Studio Album]

January 27, 2008 at 4:12 am (Kuraki Mai) (, )

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Kuraki Mai’s 7th studio album, entitled ONE LIFE, was released on 01.01.08. The album features two great songs: One Life and Born To Be Free as well as some songs to enjoy such as BE WITH U and Silent Love ~open my heart.~ However the simplicity in arrangement does deter from the potential that some of the songs have. The singles to accompany this album are 白い雪, Season of Love, Silent Love ~open my heart~ / BE WITH U

The album’s opening track is the upbeat title track, One Life. The opening line of the song sets the atmosphere of the song perfectly: pop and sweet with an underlying playful sexuality. The hook serves as a bridge between the mellow verses and the infectious uptempo chorus. Mai’s vocals match the instrumentation well and the pop flavor of the song makes it not only my favorite song on the album but my personal favorite song by Kuraki Mai. The ending of the song is amazing as she quietly sings “everybody needs love, everyday in one life, baby let’s keep going…” The English lyrics definitely add to the song’s charm and create a spirit. The song was a perfect decision for the album opening track.

The second track on the album is entitled I Like It Like That. The song has a very American feel and unfortunately the song lacks a strong energy. The verses have a slower sound to them and blends well with the primary instrument of the song, the guitar. With the hook the instrumental gets a little more complex and the vocals get a little stronger, making it memorable. Throughout the chorus, the line “I like it” is repeated and while it adds a nice flavor, it doesn’t take the song to a new level like I hoped it would. When Mai says “break it down” and goes into pure instrumental mode, the playful sexiness element is brought in again as you can hear her breath repeated. Finally the song gets some energy near the end during the chorus when the instrumentation changes and this version of the instrumental should have been used throughout the rest of the song. Overall, it was a “nice” song but it wasn’t amazing and it’s a shame since it definitely had the potential to be.

The third track on the album is entitled one for me. It’s a midtempo song that has a small cheesiness element to it but it’s still an enjoyable listen. While the arrangement is very basic on the track, it somehow works to the song’s advantage. There is no deflection form the cute and “free” sound of one for me. Mai’s vocals maintain the same relative level of power throughout the song so there is no amazing stand out section of the song. In fact, the song sounds like it’s one continuous song recorded in one take. While this keeps the flow, it doesn’t jump out at you as a stellar track. The song ends beautifully with a soft piano exit. It’s a nice song but doesn’t show Mai’s true power as an artist.

The album’s fourth track, entitled Born To Be Free, is a hot track that has an somewhat exotic element to it. The song opens strangely with a gospel chorus singing the song and this takes away from the song’s charm. The verses are more relaxed than the rest of the song but it doesn’t detract from the overall flow of the song. There’s almost an other-worldly element to them. The strongest points of the song are the hook and the chorus since they maintain that infectious element that keeps the song interesting and enjoyable. The English lines spread throughout the song give it a cuteness that goes surprisingly well with the exotic beat.

The fifth track on the album, 白い雪, has a memorable chorus that gives the song a special touch. This song is my third favorite song on the album and with a midtempo/uptempo mix, it stands apart from the other midtempo songs on the album.

The sixth song on the album, entitled Silent Love ~open my heart,~ is a touching ballad. With a winter theme to it, the ballad uses a simple arrangement to draw attention to Mai’s vocals. Truly Mai shows great vocal power that blends perfectly with the instrumentation. While the verses are relatively mellow before a musical flush into the chorus, there is no break in rhythm. The pure instrumental section really shows the beauty of the song. Overall, this song was very enjoyable and delivered an energy that some of the midtempo tracks were unable to.

The album’s seventh song, entitled everything, is a midtempo number that has a different appeal than the other songs. The traditional pattern of a song on the album is for “slow” verses and a stronger chorus but in this case, both the verses and the chorus shine equally. There is a foreign element in the chorus thought that gives it some life. I feel that after various listens, the song could grow a little tiresome since the arrangement is relatively simple. However it’s definitely enjoyable for a listen every now and then.

Season of Love, the eighth song, is my least favorite song on the album. The song opens with a man and it does not set up a good first impression of the song. While this song sounds like various other songs on the album, it just lacks the “wow factor” present in at least one section of those songs. It maintains the same midtempo approach but the chorus is not separated in a way that gives the song some flavor.

The album’s ninth track, entitled Secret Roses, is a midtempo song with a very “cool” sound. It sounds like there is a haunting yet melodic voice singing alongside Mai. The song’s weakest point is the over simplicity. That haunting voice does take too much time on the song and the instrumental sounds the same throughout the whole song. The highlight of the song comes during an English section of the song when the instrumentation changes a little bit and Mai speaks in English. The same sexiness element comes to mind as in many of the songs on the album. My verdict on the song is that it’s a “nice listen” but could have been a lot stronger. Also the song, which is less than 4 minutes, sounds like it drags on and that really isn’t a good thing.

The tenth song on the album, entitled Wonderland, is a mellow and relaxing song for the beaches. When the song opened, the image of sunshine was the first thing to come to me. The chorus is definitely the most memorable part of the song when the vocals use a bit more power and the instrumentation is brought harder. I think that if the rest of the song was built around the same melody as the chorus, the song would have been more enjoyable as a whole. It’s a nice and relaxing song that kind of gives me a lullaby feel but I wish there was a little more complexity in the instrumental and a little more vocal strength during the verses.

BE WITH U, the eleventh song on the album, is an uptempo track primarily accompanied by a guitar. It’s a good way to take away from all the midtempo songs on the album. The song does have an “anime” feel with lyrics such as “to be together” and “I just wanna be with you” and what sounds like gospel accompinent. The chorus stands out from the rest of the song as usual. After the second set of verse, hook and chorus, an instrumental section comes in and changes the style of the song a bit. The summer element adds a nice flavor to the song, making it a good listen and one of the standout songs of the album.

The final track on the album is the bonus track, a cover of Over The Rainbow. It’s sung entirely in English and overall it’s a good listen. Mai’s English is amazing so there’s no communication problem and her vocals are spot on with the song. The instrumentation is very nice as well and the horns add a certain flare to the song. Because it’s not an original song, there isn’t much to say but she did a great job of covering this classic.

As my first album by Kuraki Mai, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The first two songs I heard from the album were One Life and Born To Be Free and those set me up to await an amazing album since those two songs are the strongest on the album. Other songs such as BE WITH U, Silent Love ~open my heart,~ and 白い雪 each have their own flavor to them that sets them apart from the rest of the album. However I feel that many of the song sound very similar because of the similar arrangement used on various songs. So roughly half the album has a similar vibe to it while the other half is comprised of great songs and good songs. I admit it was slightly disappointing that the album ended this way but some memorable songs emerged and it was a “nice” introduction to Mai.

Album Ranking: B

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